HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you think to the plans?

MURDERERS and sex offenders at Britain's top security prisons are to be allowed to keep games consoles in their cells as a way of relieving their boredom, it was revealed last night.

Representatives of victims of crime reacted with disbelief to news that inmates at Frankland prison, in Durham, will be able to keep Sony PlayStation 2 consoles from next month.

The scheme is part of a national programme that will see prisoners given permission to use games consoles in their cells.

David Thompson, the newly-appointed governor of Frankland, defended the move, saying the consoles would keep prisoners occupied in their cells for hours at a time, reducing the potential for tension.

Only inmates who behave will have access to consoles and they will have to buy them with money sent by friends or family.

Alternatively, inmates can pay with money earned while working in prison.

But a spokesman for the National Victims' Association condemned the plan as an insult to families struggling to deal emotionally and financially with inmates' crimes.

"Hundreds of families that have gone through murder or manslaughter would find it absolutely abhorrent that these facilities are being made available to prisoners, whether they earn the right to have their own PlayStation or not.

"Part of the reason people go to prison is to be punished for what they have done.

"Every time that punishment is reduced by the provision of some entertainment, it causes immense distress to the families of those who have been affected by their crimes."

The PlayStation project is being rolled out across the country's six high-security prisons from the beginning of next month.

It was piloted in Long Lartin, Worcestershire, and Whitemoor, in Cambridgeshire.

Frankland is home to 727 of the country's most dangerous criminals, including Soham killer Ian Huntley. It has been rocked by a series of high-profile security alerts during the past year.

In January, murderer Lee Nevins, a Frankland inmate, escaped while being treated in Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Nevins, from Gateshead, went on the run for six days before being arrested in Scotland.

There have also been claims of race riots, a white supremacist culture and boiling oil attacks.

Mr Thompson said: "Prisoners spend quite a significant amount of time in the cell area. If someone can be active - watching television, reading, playing games - to me that's quite an incentive for them to busy themselves, rather than to consider that this is a dark environment, that there's no light at the end of the tunnel."

Mr Thompson said violent computer games would not be allowed.

In his first interview since moving from Wakefield prison in February, Mr Thompson said he wanted Frankland to conduct its business in an effective and efficient manner.

The Thornley-born father-offour said Frankland must remember it is a public service and that public protection was the prison's central focus. He added prison staff did a very good job in difficult circumstances.

Mr Thompson was previously governor at Low Newton and deputy governor at Durham Prison. He also worked at Frankland in the Eighties.